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Preset Tele-Astranar, Spiratone, Photax, Prinz-gal 400mm F6.3 Review RSS Feed

Preset Tele-Astranar, Spiratone, Photax, Prinz-gal 400mm F6.3

Sharpness 
 7.4
Aberrations 
 5.8
Bokeh 
 7.9
Handling 
 6.6
Value 
 8.5
Reviews Views Date of last review
9 45,053 Wed November 14, 2018
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Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
67% of reviewers $51.19 7.67
Preset Tele-Astranar, Spiratone, Photax, Prinz-gal 400mm F6.3

Preset Tele-Astranar, Spiratone, Photax, Prinz-gal 400mm F6.3
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Preset Tele-Astranar, Spiratone, Photax, Prinz-gal 400mm F6.3
supersize
Preset Tele-Astranar, Spiratone, Photax, Prinz-gal 400mm F6.3
supersize
Preset Tele-Astranar, Spiratone, Photax, Prinz-gal 400mm F6.3
supersize
Preset Tele-Astranar, Spiratone, Photax, Prinz-gal 400mm F6.3
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Description:
Examples of 400mm f6.3 t-mount, preset aperture telephoto lenses date back to the 1960's and can be found under a huge variety of brand names: Astranar, Impakt , Photax , D&N and Prinz-Galaxy as illustrated; others like Paragon, Sirius, Ensinor, Quantaray, Optomax, Kenlock, Praotor, Hanimex ... . It is a commonplace (on the s/h market) and cheap entry to long TP. Who manufactured which is an open question: astranars are attributed to Kawakami (Kawanon) see here.

Typically 4 element "wundertute" long tube/telescope type, there are slight differences in designs (see pics) but they are all front end focus, two ring preset aperture, and have a tripod mount, but not a hood. A multiblade - 12 seems typical - iris makes a round aperture and good bokeh. Later examples are shorter and lighter than than the earlier ones - 25cm vs 31.5cm, 550g vs 700g, 67mm vs 72mm filter*. Close focus distance is typically of the order of 7m or so, focus is anti-pentax rotation and usually ~ 270 throw.
I have also seen one with a trigger follow focus like a Novoflex, branded Nonchromat.
*measured from similar looking paragon (large) and ensinor (small) examples.
Field of view on Pentax DSLR (apsc) = 3.37 deg.
At 8m distance (typical cfd), coverage is 47cm x 31cm according to this calculator.

Preset aperture, and swappable t-mount means this can be adapted to most dslr's. T-mounts for pentax K have no aperture lever/connection or contacts so stop down aperture priority is the mode of choice. See also this thread on Pentax (K-r) behaviour with non-conducting mounts like t-mounts.

A technical point to add: the painted mounts don't (normally) make any electrical contact so catch-in (trap) focus won't work (and on my K-r the green button doesn't work either). The usual trick is to contrive a contact. If the lens doesn't orient correctly when on the camera, use a jewellers screwdriver to loosen three set screws, rotate into good position, retighten.

Pic 2 shows one side by side with a Vivitar (tokina) 400mm f5.6 for comparison.


Soligor ( "chrome eared" ) 400/6.3 reviews here .

Tokyo Koki (Tokina) made 400mm f6.3's (with distinctive stovepipe profile) reviews here.

Tokina RMC (also soligor, vivitar et al) 400mm f6.3 here.

Rear focus Itoh higon Kogaku 400mm f6.3's here.

T Mount
Price History:



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New Member

Registered: September, 2017
Posts: 13
Review Date: November 14, 2018 Recommended | Price: $46.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Sturdy, Long reach, Lower CA
Cons: Heavy, Huge, Preset Aperture
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 5    Value: 10    Camera Used: K-5ii   

It's not the best 400mm in the world, but it is very inexpensive and very simply built.

Mine is the Spiratone Pulra-Coat Sharpshooter. It came with a case, a hood, and a 2x Spiratone Plura-Coat Teleconverter. It's fun and funky. Shooting handheld is pretty hard and demands blazing sunlight. Using a tripod isn't necessarily going to fix things unless your tripod is very sturdy. In my experience so far, tripod vibration can be worse than handheld with this very long lens. My best night shots were achieved using a tripod and a wireless remote in mirror-lock-up mode.

The preset aperture means you're dealing with a manual diaphragm, which makes taking pictures of moving subjects tricky. You open the aperture, focus, then close it back down again. The aperture controls consist of two rings: one to open it up to 6.3 or close it down to the preset, and another to change the preset to fixed values between 6.3 and 32. The many aperture blades mean the bokeh is always round.

The lens is sharper and less prone to purple fringing than my Tamron 70-300 at 300mm, particularly if adding a teleconverter to each lens.

Several images using this lens can be found by searching for the "Spiratone Plura-Coat Sharpshooter 1:6.3 400mm" tag on my Flickr.

Here are a few samples. Other than the second largest moon shot (which used stacked telecoverters and needed a little brightening) these are all straight out of the camera:

Handheld, nine stories up


Right Lane Closed Nine Stories Down


Nine stories down and a block away


Using a tripod, somewhat backlit

Highrise Construction Gear - Read The Label


Construction Worker Broods

Moon with 2x T-Mount teleconverter

Moon at 800mm 2018.11.13

Moon with 2x T-Mount teleconverter and Sigma 1.4x AF teleconverter

Moon at 1120mm 2018.11.13

Moon with 2x T-Mount teleconverter and JCPenney 2x teleconverter

Moon Via Spiratone at 1600mm 2018.11.14

Jet

Spirit Jet Passes Palm

Sailboat

Hinckley Yawl Approaches Dania Pier

Closer Shots

Miata Reflects Palm Trees


Palm Berries

Here's a couple of shots of the lens itself, with the t-mount teleconverter, on a K-5ii

Spiratone 400 on Pentax K5ii, Profile


Spiratone 400 on Pentax K5ii, Close
   
New Member

Registered: May, 2018
Posts: 7
Review Date: May 13, 2018 Recommended | Price: None indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: durable, cheap
Cons: not sharp, not fast, huge
Sharpness: 6    Aberrations: 6    Bokeh: 7    Handling: 5    Value: 10    Camera Used: K-S1   

This lens is not particularly good, but it does the job. Mine is branded a Rexatar 400mm.

I haven't had any luck getting any good pictures at the lower apertures (too blurry due to low depth of field and general poor sharpness), but it seems to perform well enough stopped down.

Using this lens for nature photography is difficult because it is incredibly cumbersome. Manual focusing (while usually my preference) makes it difficult to nail focus on a bird before it flies off. If you aren't careful, you can unscrew the lens instead of focusing.

Here are some example un-edited photos. They clean up quite well with edits, since contrast and saturation can be added in software, but sharpness is difficult/impossible to recover. I use a crop sensor, so you may get better results at full frame/35mm.

   
Loyal Site Supporter

Registered: October, 2016
Posts: 242
Review Date: December 15, 2016 Recommended | Price: $25.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Sharpness, Ease of focus, range
Cons: lacking contrast, heavy
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 7    Handling: 8    Value: 9    Camera Used: K-S2   

I have the Spiratone Plura-coat sharpshooter 1:6.3 400mm. I was not expecting much from the lens but was hoping it would take
better shots than one of my zooms plus a tele-converter. The lens needed work when it arrived. The back element needed cleaning and the
rear tube was not even screwed in but was held on by the tripod mount. After the fix up I went out and took a few shots. I was pleasantly surprised by the
sharpness of the lens but noticed that I needed to boost the contrast in every shot. I will look for a 72mm hood if one exists. Perhaps that will help.

Here are a few examples. The snowman next to the chair was at neighbors house 3 doors down and across the street.











   
Veteran Member

Registered: January, 2012
Location: Slovenia
Posts: 2,182
Review Date: March 1, 2014 Recommended | Price: $100.00 | Rating: 7 

 
Pros: Weight, price, focus throw, resolution
Cons: Length, contrast/saturation
Sharpness: 7    Aberrations: 5    Bokeh: 7    Handling: 7    Value: 8    Camera Used: K-5 II   

When focused correctly (not a very easy thing to do, although the focus throw is more than adequate), this lens produces images which contain impressive detail across the frame, but since the contrast is very low, the images do not give an impression of sharpness. This returns somewhat if the in-camera contrast is boosted. Shooting raw is recommended, since more color and resolution can be squeezed out of the files. A hood is *EXTREMELY* recommended, since I think a lot of the contrast loss is due to reflections (but a lot of the coatings on the front element are also gone on my copy, so this might have something to do with it).
   
Site Supporter

Registered: November, 2012
Location: North Wales
Posts: 2,720

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: October 3, 2013 Not Recommended | Price: $50.00 | Rating: 7 

 
Pros: decent resolution stopped down, swappable T-mount, cheapest 400mm
Cons: hazed rear elements, slow lens, close focus distance
Sharpness: 7    Aberrations: 6    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 7    Value: 8    Camera Used: Pentax K-r; K5; samsung GX20; Lumix G1.   

UPDATE 1/16.
I have changed my recommendation to no due to the prevalence of hazed rear elements in the examples of these I have seen. Look for superior Soligor, Tokina RMC/renames or Tele-tokina/renames 400mm 6.3's instead.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My example of a 400mm/f6.3 preset is labelled Impakt (no I'd never heard of it either). It is 12.5"/31cm long, front and mount sections conveniently unscrew if eg cleaning is required. Pic above shows it next to a TX mount tokina made Vivitar 400mm f5.6 (top).

I find myself echoing the other reviews: relatively light (0.7kg vs 1.4kg for the Viv), good TM (but no hood on this one), surprisingly good sharpness specifically when stopped down, preset works well, focus throw about 300 deg, the whole front end rotates. The iris has lots of blades ( I counted 13) and forms a very round aperture. 72mm filter. The CFD is a minus, too large - a tad under 8m.

Performance wise there appears to be a noticeable gain in sharpness from f6.3 to f8 and again to f11. I was checking the focus on the rose with live view: DoF at 8m is 10cm at f6.3, 17cm at f11. It was in the evening shutter speeds were slow. Resized crops f6.3 f8 f11, Samsung GX20 14MPx - just an indication.





I like this, 400mm has really isolated the rose.


As is common with lenses (coatings) of this era contrast benefits from a good boost on the pc.

This lens does not seem to have the CA problems described by ProfHankD with his Astranar. However with simple old optical designs like this there is always going to be an expectation of some. This was at f11 on a cloudy day.



But the resolution is pretty good and this clearcut purple fringe is more readily PP'ed away. I have to say that pretty much I don't have a lens that isn't showing at least a smidgen of fringing when pixel-peeping pics of the castle backlit like this (I think with focus on the person and front of the tower the edges of the tower tend to be just back of the focus point and this is particulary unhelpful in terms of CA). I can add that even without a hood flare did not appear to be a problem in this pic. However we shall see when the sun comes out....

The essentially slow nature of the lens means it starts running into its limitations when the light is less than bright. One for snapping the birdlife/spying on the kids while relaxing on the verandah on a summer afternoon...? But a worthwhile lens at the price IMO if you can find a good, unhazed one. Versions can on occasion be picked up very cheaply but the price cited is probably par - typical auction (UK) bid is around 30, tends to be bumped up by resellers assiduously trying to corner the market. Don't pay the 70-80-more they try to charge!


update: Chapter 2.

This one was labelled D&N. slightly different barrel but basically the same, certainly optically. Pic above.

Performance wise I have nothing to add from checking out his one, it showed similar characteristics, decent sharpness, benefitted from stopping down. Took a nice sharp image of the estuary marker (1/2 km out) at f11 on my K-r.




update 2: Chapter 3.

Photax branded. If anything slightly sharper than the previous two. But this one suffered from what I think is a not uncommon fault with these: a whitening/haze on the rear element. This does not come off! Difficult to determine precisely how much effect on performance this was having. I would say negligibly so in bright conditions. But something to watch out for. Sample pic posted here


   
Inactive Account

Registered: August, 2010
Posts: 15
Review Date: June 3, 2012 Recommended | Price: $18.50 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Long range, cheap, well-built, easy to focus
Cons: Image Quality lacking, strong chromatic aberration.
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 5    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 8    Value: 9   

When rating this lens, I had to remind myself that I paid less than $20 for it - if I had paid more I think I would have rated it lower.

The build quality and handling was rather pleasing - definitely better than most consumer-grade lenses nowadays. Even though a tripod at 400mm is highly recommended, I managed some handheld pictures at the zoo.


For the purposes of astrophotography (for which I bought this lens), this lens is rather decent. Shooting at night, chromatic aberration and lens flare are not big issues, and I have ended up wit some decent images overall.

For general photography I actually found that the lens made decently sharp images. Bokeh is pleasing, colors are decent and contrast is nice. Sharpness depends on your abilities as a photographer, but I made the image below handheld on an overcast day. The subject was also moving:


Overall I am more than pleased with this lens! For $20, it performs very well!
   
Senior Member

Registered: June, 2010
Location: Florida
Posts: 118
Review Date: February 22, 2012 Not Recommended | Price: $25.00 | Rating: 7 

 
Pros: Pretty sharp for the price, nice bokeh.
Cons: Quite long, not great minimum focus, rather bad CA
Sharpness: 7    Aberrations: 4    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 5    Value: 7   

I pretty much have all the same things to say about it as the previous reviewer.

I do like it's sharpness though, I consider that more important than CA. Sure the CA is quite noticeable but maybe pp can fix it.

It's quite a bit bigger than I expected, but I knew what I was getting into. Focusing is a breeze with it, feels nice and smooth. One odd quirk about it though is it doesn't lock all the way into place on the camera. I line up the red dot, put it on, and twist, but no connection. Because there's no locking going on, the camera won't let me use stop down metering. It could just be this copy, last reviewer didn't mention anything similar. Hmm....but it was only $25 lol.
   
Site Supporter

Registered: November, 2010
Location: California
Posts: 2,223
Review Date: March 5, 2011 Recommended | Price: $130.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp, light weight, easy to use, hand-holdable, IQ, tripod collar
Cons: Manual

I am rating this lens 10 without adding the words "for its price." This is an overall excellent lens that impressed me and surprised me. I just wanted to try to see what an unexpensive 400mm would look like and was positively surprised. I am shooting birds hand holding this lens. It also comes with a tripod collar. My lens is actually the: SPIRATONE - SHARPSHOOTER TELEPHOTO- 400mm f6.3 Filter size 72mm. I will be posting pictures as they came out of the camera soon. I am really impressed with this lens. I do not see any connector to the camera, so I am not yet sure how the metering is done. I just attached to the camera and started shooting. There is an aperture ring and there is another ring with the letters O - C that moves and moves the other aperture ring. I presume you have to focus with the first ring, then stop down with the other ring, that is how I am using it, but it is very easy to use. I love this lens. If I evaluated this lens based on the price I paid, I would give an 11.

This is an update after several days now.

I was reading about the preset aperture lens like this one. First, by setting a fix aperture, they were able to economize and provide a high quality glass, and the rest of the money to provide the well constructed tubings. The tripod collar is there not because the lens is heavy, but because it takes some time to use this lens. Meaning, you have focus at your set aperture, then stop it down with another ring, etc. Unbelievable, I can do that while shooting birds handheld.
   
Junior Member

Registered: August, 2009
Location: Lexington, KY
Posts: 30
Review Date: September 6, 2010 Not Recommended | Price: $15.00 | Rating: 6 

 
Pros: Can be sharp, decent bokeh, handles well
Cons: Severe CA, f/6.3, not-so-close minimum focus
Sharpness: 7    Aberrations: 4    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 8    Value: 7   

I never wanted to buy one of the many 400mm f/6.3 lenses, but they are pretty common bits of people's 1970s kits, so I've gotten two as parts of lots that contained lenses I wanted. Thus, this lens didn't cost me anything per se, but I'll call it $15.

Tele-Astranar is not a major brand, but that name seems to be on a lot of 400mm+ lenses. This particular lens seems reasonably well made, and both focus and preset aperture are very smooth. There are a number of indications that this is a fairly simple lens design, but image sharpness really isn't bad for a 400mm:



Ah, but IQ overall is not good. First, my hit rate on sharp images with this lens is noticeably lower than for my Soligor 400mm f/6.3... not sure why. Second, this lens has a veiling flare problem that seems to come from internal reflections without needing a lot of external provocation. Third, color is off -- usually toward blue. Then there's CA....

It seems like nearly every tele over 200mm has a CA problem, but this is different. My Soligor 400mm has pretty evil CA at around 6-9 pixels for 14MP APS-C, but it eases into it. This lens also has some softness to the CA, but the colors separate to the degree that a sharp white line (e.g., the grass blades in the photo above) looks like three separate colored lines with varying intensity. It's a mess. Oddly, for B&W, it might not be a big problem because of the intensity difference -- it might only get the brightest line, which is fairly sharp.

Perhaps this could be repaired in PP, but I doubt it.

In fairness, the build quality is a solid 8 and IQ is not unusable... it is just a lot worse than my apparently comparable Soligor. I originally rated this a 5, but thinking about it a little more, that's a little too harsh given the build quality and sharpness. I also have to forgive some flare because I don't have a lenshood. Given all that, it's a 6.5, which I'll call 6. I still can't really recommend it.
Add Review of Preset Tele-Astranar, Spiratone, Photax, Prinz-gal 400mm F6.3



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